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Poster: A/V Geek Skip Date: Apr 9, 2004 7:23am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: reasonable steps

Personally, I think that you've made some reasonable requests regarding IA's statement about public domain materials and how they determine status.

I don't totally agree with everything you've outlined, but ultimately the IA will have to decide how they will dedicate their resources and their stance on determining public domain status. I've learned through my dealings with copyright researchers, that even they cannot offer 100% with feature films.

Would a special designation/declaimer help?

"This film is believed to be in public domain. Either the film was released into public domain or the copyright was not renewed. While the film is considered to be in public domain, underlying copyrights (such as the background music, artwork displayed, or original works that the film is based on) may still be valid. If you wish to use this film in your own works, you may wish to consult a copyright researcher for a more exhaustive investigation."

To clarify, the Film Superlist books I referred to are used by the entertainment industry to determine the public domain status of the films. These books also provide some underlying copyright research, but it is not complete.

For the record, "Beware Spooks!" was mistakenly uploaded. It was human error (mine). The film's copyright was renewed, I noted it and failed to remove it from the hard drive I sent to IA.


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Poster: movie boi Date: Apr 10, 2004 12:33am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: reasonable steps

Certainly better disclaimers would be helpful. In fact, I would add that the Archives current disclaimers about using these works outside the US are inadequate. A quick sampling of the forums shows that people outside the US believe these movies are free to use in their own countries (which may or may not be true).

A better disclaimer may work for inclusions such music and artwork, but I think it is an inadequate strategy for pre-existing works.

Reading the online piece about exhibitng "It's a Wonderful Life" makes abundantly clear that determining the copyright status on the underlying story material is essential in any determination of a movie's copyright status.

I did a quick Internet search and there are a number of statements to the effect that the "Film Superlist" is only a starting point. In particular from Library of Congres (, "There are books that purport to list films in the public domain, but they should be used only as a preliminary source of information."

One thing I find troubling is that you mentioned again that people need to be weary if they reuse this material in their own works. While this is undoubtedly true, it implies that there are no legal issues with downloading and watching the movies. If the films are protected by copyright, making an unauthorized copy on a personal computer is a violation in of itself.

Thanks again for the clarification on "Beware Spooks!."

To clarify this and my other posts, I do not make the rules. I do not even fully understand them (I am not a copyright lawyer). I certainly do not agree with them. I just like watching old movies and wonder if it is all right to watch the ones on the Archive.